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Ukraine War Puts Refugee Women at Risk of Human Trafficking, Sex Predators

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: March 24, 2022
Ukraine's refugee girls are being targeted by the German state-sanctioned prostitution trade.
People, mainly women and children, board a train at Przemysl station as they flee Ukraine on March 23, 2022 in Przemysl, Poland. Germany’s legalized sex trade, among others, see an opportunity for new blood amid the massive humanitarian crisis. (Image: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)

As the one month mark of the ever-escalating Russia-Ukraine conflict passes, more than 9.5 million of Ukraine’s 44 million people have been displaced, according to recent data by a United Nations entity.

While the study notes that more than 3 million of the flock have fled the country and more than half of all displaced are women, recent reports highlighting recruitment drives by Germany’s state-sanctioned prostitution trade are causing concern surrounding refugee safety.

A March 23 article by feminist website Reduxx brought attention to the issue as it reported on an entity describing itself as a “network and support structure by and for trans sex workers in Germany” offering what it described as “peer counselling” services in English, Ukrainian, Russian, and German for “sex workers arriving in Berlin” on Instagram.

The post asks interested takers to contact an individual’s Instagram account, who Reduxx said belongs to a trans-male who was seen “creating sadomasochistic gay pornography content under a male name” only four days before the Russian Federation’s special military operation began on Feb. 24.

According to the outlet, the entity has received funding from the German government as a “model project,” which the government considers those that provide “preventive educational work with children, adolescents and young adults,” which “support people’s commitment to democracy,” or combat “extremism.”

‘Ukrainian women will soon be joining [the] ranks’ of Europe’s prostitutes: activist

However, the incident appears to be one of the more above-board fishing nets cast in Germany. On March 9, website InfoMigrants reported that refugees arriving at Berlin’s major train and bus stations ”had been approached by people who had been offered money to come and ‘stay’ with them.”

Notably, women, children, and individuals traveling alone were specifically targeted.

Citing a piece in a German-language media outlet, the article stated that according to a former prostitute-turned-activist, Bulgaria, Romania, Nigeria, and Hungary are the main sources of sex workers in the country’s decriminalized brothels.

“Ukrainian women will soon be joining their ranks,” she was paraphrased as saying.

The head of a local rights group advocating for women forced into prostitution was quoted as cautioning refugee women to “be careful with their passports and phone numbers,” and to “make a note of the names and addresses of the hosts.”

“And don’t blindly trust women – it’s not only men that are human traffickers,” she added.

Concerningly, a second March 7 article by InfoMigrants, assembling news reports from various German media outlets, stated that there is little or no vetting being done on individuals or families offering to take refugees in.

And there is a real risk Ukraine’s women refugees face from predators. A March 2 article also by Reduxx revealed that the war has certainly stimulated the appetite of porn watchers, noting that the terms “Ukraine” and “Ukraine girl” had been top trenders on Pornhub.

A Reddit NSFW forum specializing in Ukraine-themed content had also demonstrated a surge in activity, including in users seeking content specializing in sexual assaults against refugees. 

Head of Legal Advocacy at the Center to End All Sexual Exploitation Tom Farr, who spoke to the outlet, said he was unsurprised at the trend “because this is, sadly, nothing new within the wider industry and those who use it, but obviously despair at the fact that this type of misery-porn is becoming more popular and normalized.”

Farr also noted that the specific utilization of the word “girl” had “clearly intersected with the desires of users to see, and seek out, material displaying sexual activity occurring with those who appear to be, or are, young in age.”

“The more porn that users watch, the [more] ‘niche’ they want it to be. [This] often includes increasingly violent material, which then encourages people to make this material — consensually or otherwise — in order to profit,” he added.

In one specific case, on March 5, Brazilian politician Arthur do Val, which Wikipedia characterizes as a “a defender of mostly classical liberal ideas,” was recorded in a conversation objectifying Ukrainian female refugee women as he called them “cheap because they’re poor.”

“Picture a line of 200 meters or more, like that, filled only [with] goddesses. If you wait in line at the best nightclub in Brazil, the absolute best, you don’t get even close to the level of beauty found in the refugee line here,” do Val stated.

The politician was reported to be in the country on a “humanitarian” mission to “to report on the conflict in Eastern Europe.”

Portuguese-language media revealed that do Val had filmed himself in the country during his humanitarian mission making molotov cocktails for use by the Ukrainian military, which includes many bona fide neo-Nazi groups such as the Azov Battalion.

The outlet also noted that do Val traveled with a partner who regularly frequents Eastern Europe to “pick up blondes.”

Meanwhile in Communist China, just one day after the war began on Feb. 24, website SupChina reported that netizens on Weibo, the Chinese-language equivalent of Twitter, lauded the prospect of an influx of Ukrainian women to exploit.

“I only care about the girls in Ukraine,” said one. 

Another unabashedly stated that while he would abstain from discussing Russia’s invasion, “due to my humanitarian beliefs, I am open to taking in Ukrainian teenage girls who become homeless because of the war.”

A third, “I propose that China should give entry to 10,000 Ukrainian refugees. Unmarried Ukrainian girls need to be protected from the misery of the war.”

A fourth, “Ukraine being caught in a war means that many male soldiers will be killed and many women will be left behind. Looks like I’ll no longer be single soon.”

And a fifth, “I only care about whether pretty women from Ukraine can be safely imported into China.”